After leading the Los Angeles Lakers to their 17th NBA championship, LeBron James said he and his team-mates want respect.
James led the charge with 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists as the Lakers demolished the Miami Heat 106-93 in Game 6 on Sunday night to seal a 4-2 series win and lift the Larry O’Brien trophy.
In addition to claiming his fourth championship ring, James was named Finals MVP for the fourth time in his career after posting series averages of 29.8 points (on a 59.1 field goal percentage), 11.8 rebounds and 8.5 assists across the series. He also made 41.7 per cent of his shots from three-point range.
Speaking on court after receiving his Finals MVP trophy, James reflected on finishing a job he had vowed to complete when he signed with the Lakers in July 2018.
“It means a lot to represent this franchise, he said. “I told (Lakers owner and president) Jeannie (Buss) when I came here that I was going to put this franchise back in the position where it belongs. For me to be a part of such a historical franchise, it is an unbelievable feeling, not only for myself but for my team-mates, the organisation, the coaches and the trainers, everybody that is here.
“We just want our respect. (Lakers general manager) Rob (Pelinka) wants his respect. Coach Vogel wants his respect. The organisation wants its respect. Laker Nation wants its respect. And I want my damn respect too.”
Still dominant at 35 years old, James was asked if he is experiencing the longest ‘prime’ in professional sport.
“I don’t know, I’ll let you (media) guys talk about it,” he said. “One thing I can do is commit to the game. I put myself, my body, my mind in position to be available to my team-mates. I have never missed a playoff game in my career.
“The best thing you can do for your team-mates is be available. For me to be available to my team-mates and put in the work, I hope I made my guys proud. That’s what matters to me. My family back home, I can’t wait to get home to them. Akron, Ohio, we did it again.”
Asked about his partnership with fellow Lakers All-Star Anthony Davis, James said it was “easy”, adding: “I said it in a presser before. We have no ego. We want the best from each other every day on and off the floor.
“I know what it means to have seven years where you feel like you can’t get over the hump. In my first stint at Cleveland, I felt I couldn’t get over the hump. I felt like I needed some help. I felt like I needed someone to push me. That’s when I was able to go to Miami and get pushed by D-Wade (Dwyane Wade), (Chris) Bosh and that franchise.
“So to be able to get (Davis to the Lakers) and push him and let him know how great he is, making him see better basketball and be a part of something that is special, that’s what it is all about. To be able to put (Davis) where he is today, that means so much to me. The fact he trusts me means even more.”
The NBA restarted in the Disney bubble with a league-wide commitment to fighting for social change. James believes that is another mission that has been accomplished by the NBA and its players.
“It has been unbelievable… (NBA commissioner) Adam (Silver), everybody from the NBA and (the) NBPA (players union), putting this thing together and us using our voices and being together,” he said.
“You hear Golden State using the phrase ‘Strength in Numbers’ and that is exactly what it was while we were here. Everybody had a voice on what is going on in America.
“We know we want to see better days and when we leave here we have got to push that. Continue to push against social injustice, voter suppression, police brutality, everything that is the opposite of love. If we can continue to do that, all of us, America will be a better place. We all love this country.”
Watch a full replay of Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Sky Sports Arena on Monday at 1:30pm